The Graduate Student Council discussed transportation and parking initiatives aimed at addressing concerns among graduate students at its second meeting of the semester Wednesday. The council also announced its upcoming elections for the fall semester, an increase to the graduate student activity fee and the recently submitted budget proposal for hygiene products in restrooms across campus.
The meeting kicked off with a list of transportation initiatives GSC hopes to promote at upcoming meetings with the Parking and Transportation Advisory Committee, a University committee made up of administrators, faculty, students and staff that advises on issues related to transportation, traffic and parking. The proposed initiatives were based on the results of a survey sent out to all graduate students, which received 332 responses out of the 2,920 graduate students enrolled at Brown, according to Chair of Communications Farha Mithila GS.
Mithila cited bike and car parking, unreliable shuttle availability and commute expenses as the respondents’ main complaints.
“We want accessible parking lots as well, so we can actually park near our work because our (current) parking locations are as far away as our houses are,” she said. According to the survey, over 77% of respondents struggle to find parking most of the time, and 27% of respondents pay between $100 and $500 for parking each month.
According to GSC President Joe Colleyshaw GS, the council will focus primarily on subsidizing Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority and Amtrak fees, advocating for better shuttle times to accommodate graduate students who work outside of standard hours and implementing better security and lighting for the 94% of students that the survey found regularly walk to work. GSC will push for a better parking system as a secondary, longer-term goal.
The meeting also addressed upcoming elections to fill four GSC positions for the fall semester: president, chair of socials, chair of masters’ advocacy and chair of technology. According to Colleyshaw, the elections will be held “first thing” at the next GSC meeting April 5, where candidates will outline their plans for the role.
Colleyshaw announced that the Corporation, the University’s highest governing body, increased the graduate student activity fee for the fall semester at its February meeting. Half of the new funds will be allocated by the council, while the other half “will be used to fund the gyms and transportation around Brown.”
GSC also collaborated with the Undergraduate Council of Students to submit a budget request for the installation of menstrual product dispensers in women's and gender-neutral campus bathrooms, The Herald previously reported.
“Hopefully we'll be able to cover every single campus restroom,” Mithila said.
GSC is also looking into ways to help subsidize the price of graduation regalia. Colleyshaw suggested that those who are struggling to pay for their gowns ask their departmental managers for financial assistance.
“This has been an issue for years,” Colleyshaw said. “We're going to keep on trying (for lower prices), but they're not going to change their prices unless more people go tell them ‘this is too expensive.’ ”
According to the Brown Bookstore website, master’s students can purchase a keepsake gown, hood and cap for $79.95 total and PhDs and MDs can rent customized regalia for $110. Buying a custom gown can cost up to hundreds of dollars for PhD and MD students.
GSC is also working with the Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity and the graduate school to develop the Diversity and Improvement Action Plan, according to Vice President of Advocacy Josephine Kalshoven GS.
The Graduate Labor Organization also released a request for graduate students to sign its platform pledge in support of ongoing contract renegotiations with the University. According to Colleyshaw, the pledge outlines the union’s concerns and asks for graduate support as GLO continues its negotiations.
Councilmembers closed the meeting by announcing several upcoming events, including a monthly trivia night and a March 5 workshop with Counseling and Psychological Services on building and maintaining interpersonal relationships.
Katie Jain is a University News editor from New Jersey overseeing the graduate student life beat. She is a junior concentrating in International and Public Affairs and History.